BY CHAD DARE
Curiosity got the best of Steven Williams eight years ago.
In B.J. Luke’s first season at Danville High, Williams decided to watch the Vikings practice.
“One day, I was interested in their practice and I went over there to watch,’’ Williams said. “He asked me to be the ball boys and I did it.
“I’ve been here since he’s been here, really.’’
But, up until this year, the only real action that Williams saw on the Ned Whitesell Field was from the sidelines.
That’s because Williams missed significant time in both his sophomore and junior season with injuries.
“He’s had some unfortunate injuries that put him behind the 8-ball when it came to playing time,’’ Luke said.
Ironically, it was the same injury each year and they both happened at the same time of the Danville season.
“Both of them happened on the last day of two-a-days,’’ Williams said. “In my sophomore season, I broke my right collarbone and my junior year, I broke my left collarbone.’’
Williams was able to recover and get back on the practice field in each season, but his playing time was severely limited.
“Each time, we already had our playing rotations set,’’ Luke said. “I think that’s a testament to him, that he stuck it out.’’
And the payoff has been delivered this season.
Williams is Danville’s leading receiver with 28 receptions for 269 yards and four touchdowns.
“I wasn’t sure that it was going to turn out like this after the last two years,’’ he said. “This year, I’ve become one of the main targets in our passing game.’’
According to junior receiver Chris Collier, who leads the Vikings in receiving yards (459), Williams has come a long way for the team.
“Steven has proven this year that he could have been on the football field the past two years if not for his injuries,’’ Collier said. “He has really stepped up in a lot of big games for us.’’
While Collier and Martez Davis (377) have the majority the receiving yards, Williams has developed into his role of being Danville’s possession receiver.
“I feel like I’m the go-to guy when we need a big first down,’’ Williams said.
And that’s exactly what the Vikings need according to Collier.
“Steven’s biggest strength is his ability to catch the ball in a clutch situation,’’ Collier said. “When it’s a close game and we need a first down, coach and Trent (Sherfield) know they can go to Steven to make the play.’’
And that trust between quarterback and receiver was developed over the summer.
“He was one of my main targets in 7-on-7 competitions and it’s carried over into the season,’’ Sherfield said. “Steven has a lot of moves. He can break a corner down easily.
“I know that he will get open and I get him the ball.’’
But, Luke is quick to point out that Williams isn’t just a possession receiver.
“He’s kind of like Steve Largent (NFL Hall of Fame receiver),’’ Luke said. “They get you with a possession catch, another possession catch and then all of the sudden, they slip past you for a big play.
“Steven has done a really nice job of making plays for us this year.’’
But, it almost didn’t happen.
“After getting injured last year, I thought about quitting football,’’ said Williams, who also plays basketball at Danville. “I wasn’t mad that I got hurt, I just felt like I needed to be out there playing for my team.
“And considering both injuries happened just before the start of the season, I wondered why did I put in all of this work.’’
Thankfully, for himself and the Vikings, he decided to get it another go this season.
“I feel like I accomplished something just starting the season,’’ he said. “And, everything else that has happened is just an added bonus.’’
Not only has Williams made big contributions on the Danville offense, but a few weeks ago, he was also named a starter at defensive back for the Vikings.
“Actually, I thought that I would have been playing defense all year,’’ Williams said. “When I started the year on offense that kind of surprised me, and now, I’m going both ways.’’
And how is that?
“I love it,’’ he said. “I want to be out there on the field as much as I can.’’
Williams will get his final opportunity to play on the Ned Whitesell Field tonight as Danville hosts Normal Community in the final regular-season home game.
“Things haven’t gone as well as I would have liked this year, but we’ve put ourselves in a position to make the playoffs,’’ Williams said.
The Vikings need to win their final two games to secure their seventh straight playoff berth.
Kickoff tonight is set for 7 p.m. and the game can be heard locally on WDAN-AM 1490.